* Advisory: Content may distress some readers.

Ian Cross, then editor at the Listener, quoted something to me that I resented at the time.

"You become what you most despise", has been reluctantly etched on my memory ever since.

I guess nobody says it to Germaine Greer. Nobody loves an enfant terrible, least of all a 79-year-old feminist who seems to side with the boys just when you expect her not to. Is this the author of The Female Eunuch or some weird parody?

Greer's latest book, on the subject of rape, is annoying before anybody's even read it because of her advance interviews. She's basically telling women to harden up about rape and that the #MeToo movement is pointless, and in both cases, her age is getting in the way.

Advertisement

Women of her generation, the generation that first got the pill - but only through doctors, and only if you were married - hardened up because there was no choice. Women older than them were seriously tough. If you were raped you kept quiet because rape trials were insulting to women, as were police investigations.

Convictions were rare. It was the woman's fault if she exposed skin, wasn't a virgin, didn't fight ferociously, and didn't scream enough. There was no alternative to becoming bitter afterwards. It was a man's world.

Those women judged younger women by the harsh code they had experienced themselves. That meant that if they were drunk and accepted a lift from a stranger, or were raped by "friends", they asked for it, and there was no hope of a legal abortion if they were both raped and pregnant.

The children were given up for adoption, causing lifelong pain all around, and the mothers meekly accepted malicious gossip on top of trauma.

Older women punished them harshly; matrons in maternity hospitals, religious women running homes for unmarried mothers, elderly neighbours who whispered behind their hands.

Greer is a product of the generation of women who experienced the Depression and World War II, and were fully hardened by such cruelty. Today she sounds like one of them, casually callous.

She has revealed she was raped at the age of 19, that she'd failed in attempts to get pregnant, and that she was, "made to spend her wedding night sleeping on the floor", weaker moments suggesting she was once vulnerable.

She has talked more recently about hearing a friend being raped by her husband in the next room and doing nothing. "Sex is a blood sport. People take punishment. They get over it," she said. In other words, man up.

Speaking out years after being attacked is pointless, Greer says, aiming at women in the #MeToo movement. Yet was it pointless to protest at the film and TV awards?

Was it pointless for 84 women to reveal how persistently Harvey Weinstein sexually abused women, or to expose the creepy sexual kinks of Bill Cosby? Has all that solidarity among women meant nothing? And do the women who've come forward deserve to be called "Career rapees"? That's harsh, and it misses the point.

The Human Rights Commission has been found wanting in its treatment of sexual harassment, and the legal profession, according to a new survey, and to no one's surprise, has its share of sleaze.

Issues are still alive that Greer once pinpointed in a book that helped launch the new wave of feminism in the 1970s, but the once witty author has become the media's go-to grumpy old harpy, a favourite aunt who turned sour on the world. It's a bad look for a good cause.

IF YOU NEED HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)

• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)

• Youthline: 0800 376 633

• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)

• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)

• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

• Samaritans 0800 726 666